Tuesday, March 31, 2015

What's for supper? Unstuffed cabbage

Here is a non-recipe for unstuffed cabbage.

Start with: one pound ground pork; half a can tomatoes, frozen; 2 cups rice and lentils, frozen.
Add in: half a bag leftover shredded cabbage.
Brown the pork and stir in the rice and lentils.
Layer in a casserole with tomatoes and cabbage. I used too much cabbage so it ended up a little soupy but still tasty. Add salt and extra seasonings if needed.
Sprinkle with paprika. I also added a cupful of tomato sauce on top (not in photo). Bake at 350 degrees until heated through and cabbage is cooked.
Casserole out of the oven.
Eat with rye bread.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Things going on around the Treehouse

What is up around here? Besides spring coming?

Today was the local homeschool conference. Some years I have done workshops, but this year I was just an attendee. It is a good chance to see friends and get a look at how the world of homeschooling is going. Lydia went with me this year for the first time. She got lots of freebie pens and things, and found a purple Bible she liked for half price.

Mr. Fixit has been busy working on his fixing and selling. Did you know there are still people out there who like CB radios?

The Apprentice has been busy working out of town, but she will be here for Easter, next weekend.

I have not been writing as much here lately because I've been working on an off-blog writing project. I can't say much about it yet but when it's got more shape to it I'll let you know.

Homeschool Conference today!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Quote for the day: Paul Klee

"First of all, the art of living; then as my ideal profession, poetry and philosophy, and as my real profession, plastic arts; in the last resort, for lack of income, illustrations."   —Paul Klee.

(Gualtieri Di San Lazzaro, Klee. Praeger, New York, 1957, p. 16)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

What's for supper? Black and white chili

Tonight's dinner menu:

Black and White Checkered Chili, from Saving Dinner. I added an extra can of white beans at the end because I found it too soupy.

Frozen breaded fish, for those that want it

Bread, carrot sticks, and other assorted leftovers.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Starting Term Three, school plans for the week (Lydia's Grade Eight)

Ten things on the list for this week's school:

1. Bible articles from this month's Mennonite Brethren Herald. It appeared in our mailbox and I thought we'd make the most of it.

2 & 3. Start reading our new Shakespeare play and Plutarch's life (Timoleon) for the term.

4. Read George Herbert's poems: Redemption, The Agonie, and Joseph's Coat.

5. Start reading Beyond Texting together.

6. Work on Churchill's New World, chapter 19, about "Cromwell's Terror."

7. Paul Klee, "Flower Myth."

8. The Seashell on the Mountaintop: Chapter 10 De Solido.  "Given a substance endowed with a certain shape, and produced according to the laws of nature, to find in the substance itself clues disclosing the place and manner of its production."

9. Keep reading Perelandra.

10. Start practicing for the Gauss Mathematics Competition in May.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

What's for supper? Chicken and spring things, now with recipe

Sunday dinner, first weekend of spring:

Roast chicken
Reheated rice
Butternut squash
Peach cobbler
Peach Cobbler
The batter is Bettina's Cottage Pudding, from A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband.
1 600 g bag frozen peaches (that's about a 20 oz. bag in Imperial)
A spoonful of butter or margarine, and a sprinkle of sugar

1 cup flour
1 2/3 tsp. baking powder (who wants to measure that? I just put in about 2 tsp.)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup sugar (I used brown sugar)
1 well-beaten egg
1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp. melted butter (I have used canola oil and margarine)
1/4 tsp. vanilla or lemon extract (I used lemon)
Turn the oven on to 350 degrees F. In a greased casserole or pan, put the peaches plus a bit of butter or margarine and a little sugar. If the peaches are still frozen, put the pan in the oven while it is preheating and you are mixing the batter. Leave it in at least long enough so that you start to smell the peaches warming up. If the peaches are thawed, it still doesn't hurt to warm them up a bit before putting batter on them.
Mix the dry ingredients first, then beat in the egg and milk, adding melted butter and flavouring last. Remove the pan (carefully) from the oven, and spread the batter on top. It will be thick and will probably not go right to the edges, but that's all right, just do the best you can. Put it back in the oven and bake for about half an hour, until the cake part is baked through and starting to brown. I baked it uncovered, but if you would rather have more of a steamed pudding, you could put a lid on it or cover with foil. Makes about six servings.

Quote for Sunday: A preserved Cindy quote on leisure

"It is interesting how disconcerting this idea of leisure is." ~~ Cindy Rollins, Ordo Amoris blog (2010)

Monday, March 16, 2015

Blog pause for Spring Break

I am taking a few days off here to clean the Treehouse and work on a reading/writing project.  Happy Spring Break!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

CM Quote for the Day: A Full Reservoir

 "Now the thought that we choose is commonly the thought that we ought to think and the part of the teacher is to afford to each child a full reservoir of the right thought of the world to draw from. For right thinking is by no means a matter of self-expression. Right thought flows upon the stimulus of an idea, and ideas are stored as we have seen in books and pictures and the lives of men and nations; these instruct the conscience and stimulate the will, and man or child 'chooses.'" ~~ Charlotte Mason, Philosophy of Education, page 130

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Cherry Pi for 3-14-15

Sweet Cherry Pi(e)

1 unbaked bottom piecrust, pat-in is fine
1 bag frozen sweet cherries, partly thawed (on sale this week at Food Basics)
about 1/2 cup red jam, any kind, mixed with 1 tbsp cornstarch and a little water (I shook it up in the jam jar)

1 recipe favourite crisp-crumbles (flour, sugar, oats, oil, sprinkle of cinnamon)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Spread fruit in crust. Top with jam-water-cornstarch mixture, then crumble topping. Bake 10 minutes at 425 degrees, then about 40 minutes at 350 degrees, until topping is light brown and filling is set. If you didn't add enough water to the jam and cornstarch, you may have a slightly stiff filling, but you can always add something nice like vanilla ice cream to go alongside it, and nobody will complain.

Friday, March 13, 2015

OK, now I am really afraid

You thought you'd had your shudder for the day? How about adult pre-school? (link to video)

P.S. Why don't these people who want to fingerpaint and dress up just homeschool their kids?

Some good blog stuff to pass on

A couple of blog posts you really shouldn't miss this week:

The Deputy Headmistress at The Common Room has started a series about the Charlotte Mason approach to composition. This is not just theory; the DHM has a whole lot of years of experience with this, both ups and downs.

The latest Seven Quick Takes post on Afterthoughts has a couple of good links to challenging articles. Plus a cute baby goat.

That's all for now! (Really, there's enough in there to keep anybody busy for awhile.)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

What's for supper? Potato dinner, change of flavours

Tonight's dinner menu, changed slightly:
Two skillet dinners, one with ground beef, one with romano beans; pizza sauce, celery, onion, tomato puree, mushrooms, leftover potatoes, seasonings. Italian cheese blend if you want.
An experiment-cake made with blueberries and half a bag of frozen cranberries. It is very soft and fruit-heavy, so definitely a fork-eater.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Looking for good definers

In How to Read a Book, Mortimer J. Adler spends some time on the problem of, literally, "coming to terms" with an author. That is, making sure that we understand how he defines or uses certain words, because one person who writes about "love" may mean something different from another.

In Concerning the Teacher, St. Augustine says pretty much the same thing:
"He merely calls the thing about which he was thinking by a name which is other than the one by which we call it. We should agree with him at once if we could read his mind and see directly the thought which he was unable to express by the words spoken and the statement made. They say that definition can cure this error, so that in this case, if the speaker were to define what virtue is, it would be clear that the controversy is not about the thing but about the word. Now I may grant that this is so, but how often is it possible to find good definers?"

What's for supper? Starts with P

Tonight's dinner menu:

Polish wieners
Potato casserole (chopped potatoes, vegetable broth, olive oil, smoked paprika, kosher salt)

Last night's fruit crisp.

Quote for the day: why not to rush through lessons

First posted here March 2013. From The Divine Comedy: III. Paradise, Canto V, translated by Dorothy L. Sayers and Barbara Reynolds.  Beatrice says to Dante:

Thou must sit still at table long enough
To let digestion work, the which would fain
Have more assistance, for this food is tough.

Open thy mind; take in what I explain
And keep it there; because to understand
Is not to know, if thou dost not retain.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Quote for the day: Critics can be their own worst critics

"I had grave doubts about my fitness to discuss the question of research in the humanities, because I have been deflected from everything that could conventionally be described as research, in the sense of reading material that other people have not read, or have read for a different purpose." ~~ Northrop Frye, "The Search for Acceptable Words," in Spiritus Mundi

What's for supper? Oven meal

Tonight's dinner menu:

Honey-mustard chicken
Baked sweet potatoes
Casserole of leftover Pasta with Garlicky Greens and Beans (mostly just the pasta) plus cheese, milk, broth, and extra seasonings

Cranberry-blueberry crisp.

Monday, March 09, 2015

The Sun is Out

Spring is on the way; it's up to 3 degrees (Celsius), sunny, and it's supposed to be warmer tomorrow.

Maybe I will even have a snow-half-gone photo to put at the top of the blog.

Term Two Exam Questions (Lydia's Grade Eight)

Some of these are from the online exam questions for AmblesideOnline Year 8; a couple were taken from original PNEU school programmes; and some are questions of my own invention.
Christian Studies
1. Tell back a) one of the Old Testament passages and b) one of the Gospel passages from your recent readings.
2a. How does the story of Perelandra seem to parallel that of Adam and Eve (so far)? How do you think it is going to turn out?
2b. Give some examples of ways that artists have tried to emphasize the humanity or the divinity of Jesus. If you were an artist trying to show what Jesus is like for your own age group, time and culture, how might you portray him (but not go "too far?") (You do not have to draw it, just give ideas.)

Questions are attached.
English Literature
1. Make a list of the chief characters in a) The Merchant of Venice or b) Fierce Wars, Faithful Loves, and write a short description of one out of EACH book. Make a list of favourite lines in the case of a).
2. What do you know of Sir Francis Bacon and his "new ways of wisdom?"
3 What poems by George Herbert have you read? Give the substance of two of them.

1. In what ways did Charles I set aside the Magna Charta? Describe the "storm that followed."
2. How did Puritanism affect English culture in the 17th century?

1. Describe, a), a journey across Tanzania from the coast to Lake Tanganyika, b), the island of Zanzibar. Give a rough sketch map.
2.  Give examples of the conflict that arose between Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke. What finally happened to show that they should go their own separate ways?
Natural History and General Science
1a. Explain in detail one of the scientific things that "don't make sense."  OR
1b. How can the universe be said to be "elegant?" Explain in as much detail as you can.
2. Describe some of the early work of Nicolaus Steno.
3. What do you know about lemmings? What principle does their life cycle illustrate?
4. Write either an interview, a journal entry, or a dialogue relating to one of the incidents from Exploring the History of Medicine.


1. What is the trouble with political power? Give examples.
2. Read either of the editorials marked from last week's newspaper, and write a response, based on your understanding of liberty and democracy.
3. What do you know of The Way of the Will? (How do we live best by using our wills?)

Reading Skill (How to Read a Book)
1. What are some legitimate ways of disagreeing with an author?
Picture Study
1. Describe a picture from this term's study of Albrecht Dürer.

Recite the memory work you have prepared.

Sing your favorite hymn from this term.

Show some work in handicrafts from this term to someone outside your family.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Lydia Knits Hats

Lydia started this school year barely knowing how to knit, and now she's up to double-pointed needles. Yay! (And thanks to the Apprentice for some coaching.)

P.S. Here's the pattern.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

What's for supper? Soup and bread night

Tonight's dinner menu
Split pea soup in the slow cooker
Country White Bread in the bread machine
Assorted leftovers from the rest of the week
Pineapple-Granola Muffins
Apples and oranges.

Slow Cooker Split Pea Soup

Adapted from a recipe in The Perfect Basket, by Diane Phillips.


2 cups yellow split peas (one of the little bags from the grocery store)
1/2 cup brown rice (optional)
1 bay leaf
2 tsp. dried marjoram
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper (I didn't have any so I used black pepper)
1 quart chicken or vegetable broth plus more water as needed
Some chopped frozen onion
A couple of carrots, peeled and chopped
Three stalks of celery, chopped

If you weren't going to do this in the slow cooker, you could start by sauteing the vegetables in a bit of butter or oil, then adding the split peas, broth, and seasonings. I just put everything into the slow cooker, adding water to fill it maybe three-quarters full. I set it on High for a few hours, then turned it to Low partway through the afternoon when it was bubbling hard. I think it would work fine to leave it on Low all day.

Herbartianism Made Fun and Easy, Part Ten (last one): Attention!

Part Nine is here.
Chapter Ten of Herbartian Psychology, "The Doctrine of Interest," is over thirty pages long. I don't want to presume on people's interest in this book past ten posts. Some are already shuffling their feet and finding their car keys in anticipation of the benediction. But, on the other hand, it's a good chapter. So, extend the series? No. Write an overly long post? Also no. But I am almost certainly going to miss some worthwhile points, so wander over to archive.org if you'd like to really check out the last chapter.

The most important and practical idea here, especially for those interested in Charlotte Mason's methods, is about attention, both voluntary and involuntary. Most parents know how to invoke young children's involuntary attention, or distract them from something undesirable--the "ooh shiny" idea. But as children get older, we want them "to pass from the purely involuntary to the purely voluntary forms of attention....[yet] in a certain sense, the converse is true, and the function of education may be regarded as the creation of involuntary attention through voluntary attention. By deliberately concentrating our attention upon a certain class of subjects, we may build up such a powerful apperception mass that any fact connected with that mass will at once attract our attention quite irrespective of our will. This produces an alertness to certain classes of facts that may be of the utmost service in our experience, and therefore may be legitimately held up as one of the aims of education."

Adams says that "a thing must find a natural place for itself in the cosmos of the child's mind," and that "teaching consists in finding or forming suitable places among the apperception masses for new ideas." When a new fact or idea comes pinging through the air, up into the dome, and there's a magnet (apperception mass) there to receive it, it's not even a matter of will or of forcing ourselves to pay special attention to that stimulus; the idea just goes where it's supposed to go. This can work, as Adams says, in the area of a child developing skills such as walking or holding a pencil. In the beginning, that new skill takes all his interest and attention; when it's mastered, the act itself naturally becomes less interesting because he's ready to move on to something else. It's like the month or so that it's said we need to establish a new habit; when it's firmly entrenched, you can stop consciously thinking about it.

And then an interesting idea pops up. Adams quotes William James' Principles of Psychology, which would have been quite new at that time, and asks this question: if someone insults you, which do you do first?--clench your fists and contract your brows, or get angry? Don't answer too quickly, think about it for a minute. Does the emotion come first, or the physical response? Does the physical response actually give you a rationalization for becoming angry? For those of you who know Charlotte Mason's story of little Guy and his tantrums, and the other stories in that volume, doesn't that thought make sense? When Guy was about to erupt, his parents learned to watch for the physiological signs before he actually said or did anything else, and tried to divert him at that exact point before there was no going back. For Charlotte Mason, the answer to Adams' question is clear: an undesirable emotional response follows the fist-clenching and brow-contracting, so if we are in tune with our own physical symptoms, we can divert our attention. Or, possibly, that of someone else.
"Every prosy lecturer to the young who urges his dear young friends to count ten before they reply to an angry speech...is a practical supporter of Mr. James."
So there we are, back where we started. But Adams has one more point to make about this attention question, and it relates more directly to teaching.  He claims that "If a boy is allowed to maintain the attitude of inattention, nothing can prevent him from becoming inattentive." If we allow children to act bored, they'll be bored. And what do you do about that?
"In every case attention owes its direction to the emotional states that accompany mental action; in other words, attention follows interest....[but] Interest depends upon the apperception masses that can be brought into relation with the given object. Attention cannot create masses, it can only give masses a chance to rise into consciousness."
So if he knows nothing whatsoever about the subject, he'll be bored; as was said in an earlier chapter, the piece of information will quickly drop out of his consciousness. But if he is given a reason to be interested, if it connects with something he already knows, then he'll pay attention without having to be either forced or deliberately entertained. I read through this entire book about Herbartian psychology without having to be forced to do it and without falling asleep (coffee helped), because even the duller parts connected closely with something I already knew something about and had an interest in. I had a real reason for working through it. (The amusing bits like giving Fagin a teaching award were just a bonus.)

Here is something I think Charlotte Mason would have loved:
"Teachers are fond of talking about creating an interest; but this labour at least is spared them. They have not to create but only to direct interest." 
And one especially for my friend Karen:
"Now we find in wood a delightfully abundant source of carbon [which our bodies need]. Why, then, is there no run upon shavings during a time of famine? Why does sawdust not keep down the price of porridge?...The body insists upon having [its carbon] in decent oatmeal, and other legitimate forms. So with ideas." 
Adams ends the chapter, and the book, by noticing that "if we have drifted somewhat from Herbart, we have drawn nearer to Froebel. That the two opposing systems should tend to meet on common ground is no more than one acquainted with the movement of the Hegelian dialectic would expect." Hegel aside, (and Adams says that that's exactly where practically-minded teachers should put him), it seems to me that the same could be said about Herbart, at least in Adams' interpretation, and Charlotte Mason. They may not agree on all points, but it seems that there is more common ground than we once thought.
"The theory of interest does not propose to banish drudgery, but only to make drudgery tolerable by giving it a meaning. We have seen that what is interesting is by no means necessarily pleasant; but it is something that impels us to exertion....the principle of interest braces [the student] up to endure all manner of drudgery and hard work." ~~ Sir John Adams, The Herbartian Psychology Applied to Education. 

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Herbartianism Made Fun and Easy: Eye of the beholder

Did you ever have an illustration for something just handed to you, so obvious that you didn't even have to think about it?

(one of the few videos I could find about The Dress that didn't include profanity)
"Perception of reality is not the same thing as reality." (SciShow, The Science of That Dress)
Chapter Nine of Herbartian Psychology, "Graphic Hypotheses," begins with something that was first mentioned in Chapter Three:
"It is true that in Reid's comfortable dogmatism we are assured that we perceive the outer world exactly as it is, and therefore we all perceive it alike. But Locke admits that the outer world may be modified in certain aspects,--colour, smell, sound, taste,--but in other more fundamental respects remain unchanged. According to this view, man is the measure of colours, smells, sounds and tastes..."
In other words, the size and shape of something may be fairly fixed and common to almost everyone; but on the other aspects, you're on your own. Referring back to his perception games in Chapter Six, Adams says, "Even a simple straight line may mean something slightly different to each new observer, and the greater the number of lines in a drawing, the greater the range within which its interpretation by different observers may vary." However, "when two persons are talking about the drawing that lies before them, there is at least something to go upon, there is a sort of least common denominator of thought, to which all the ideas of each party must be reduced before agreement can be expected." "The fact is that while our mental impressions of a given object are continually changing, they always correspond with each other, and to the given reality."

So there's room for personal interpretation, but there's also the possibility that someone doesn't understand, doesn't have the right information, is just inaccurate. Not everything is relative. The Dress may be seen as white and gold or as blue and black, but nobody has suggested that it's pink and purple, or that it's actually a ski jacket or a pair of boots.

What does this have to do with Herbartianism and education?

First and most practically, teachers can use graphic narrations to evaluate how well students understand something. Hence the value of Charlotte Mason science notebooks. Adams gives the example of student teachers reading Robinson Crusoe, who were asked to make drawings of Crusoe's tent based on the information given in the chapter. The story said that the roof was covered "with flags and large leaves of trees, like a thatch." Apparently some of them took "flags" to mean the Union Jack, and that's what they drew. They weren't stupid, just lacking information.

Second, Adams discusses the non-value of bad or misleading diagrams. If a diagram or an illustration is "an integral part of the idea it illustrates," then it can be worthwhile; otherwise, we might want to reconsider using it.  "Milton has been often praised for his reticence in not fully describing Satan. Can we say as much for the illustrators of The Pilgrim's Progress?" "There are certain things that are better left undrawn."

Third, we are given the detailed description of a "Map Robinson Crusoe's Island" contest.The Boy's Own Paper advertised the contest and offered a prize, and Adams says that over a hundred and fifty maps were submitted. The contest contained a couple of possible snags, although those weren't mentioned in the rules. The biggest one is, obviously, that not everything is given in the story, and some things must just be imagined; but the text also contains a few contradictions and impossibilities regarding the geography of the island, so even a careful mapmaker would have to deal with those. You can read more of the details in Herbartian Psychology at the archive.org site, but for now, the educational question becomes the double difficulty "of communicating an idea from one mind to another....The idea must be dissolved, as it were, in words, and then again crystallized out in the new mind....The concrete of one mind must be reduced to its abstract terms, and then rebuilt into the concrete of the new mind." It's like what happens when you beam somebody up on Star Trek.
And obviously, there's a risk of something misfiring. Words are tricky things. As was said in the last chapter, we have to make sure we're using the "same system" as the person we're talking to; a newer way to phrase it would be "on the same page." But we also have to recognize that our minds are all unique; we're not clones, and we don't see things exactly the same way. Our "apperception masses" are all different; to every lesson or situation, teachers and students all bring who they are, what they know, and their own ways of seeing. White or gold, or blue and black.

As a postscript: If the mind is a spider web, Adams says, a teacher may be seen as "a benevolent spider...whose business is not to make plain the already geometrically clear lines of the web, but to see that guiding apperception masses are so arranged that they shall lead ultimately to the centre, by the way, however crooked it may seem, that is best for each seeker." (I'm not sure whether these seekers are supposed to be younger spiders, or what.)

But oh dear, I don't like to be seen as a benevolent spider, do you? I certainly don't feel qualified to decide which way to the centre is "best for each seeker."

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Herbartianism Made Fun and Easy, Part Eight: Get the point?

Part Seven is here.
"Jokes must not be judged by their power to raise a laugh. There are jokes that insist upon our laughing; others are content with a chuckle; some are satisfied with a mere gleam of intelligence. This last class includes those cases in which an idea does not belong to a system in which it is found, but which might belong to that system. There is nothing incongruous between the idea and its new environment, except the fact that this is its first appearance there." ~~ Sir John Adams, The Herbartian Psychology Applied to Education
In Part Six, I included photos from the movie My Cousin Vinny. Why is it funny when New Yorkers Vinny and Lisa drive into Alabama in a red Cadillac? When they get stuck in the mud and are puzzled over grits? Why is it funny when Lisa snaps photos of everything with her pink camera?  Because they so obviously don't belong in this small town, and they know it.

After Adams wanders around a bit in Chapter Eight with the role of jokes in the classroom, he points out that they can actually be useful: they are about trying to get the point of something.

And jokes, riddles, metaphors and similes can work forwards or backwards. You might be given the key to a poem right at the start ("it's about daisies"), and just enjoy the similes; or you might have to figure out for yourself what's being described. Like Sherlock Holmes, quoted in an earlier chapter as one who could "reason backwards," a good riddle-guesser is given "the second part of the simile and [has] to discover the first part, or [is given] the metaphor and [is] required to discover the literal truth." "The mind may have the masses given, and be set to discover the idea which will connect those masses."

For example, in a Latin translation:
"First he reads it over, picking out all the words or idioms that he knows. Each known word or phrase or reference is a centre round which ideas gather. The second step is to make some sort of hypothesis as to the general meaning of the whole passage--a description, a speech, an argument, or what-not. This hypothesis must be such as to fit into all the known words, and must fix the tone of the whole. The third process consists in working backwards from this hypothesis...just as Holmes' proceedings after a case is once started are merely a hunt for verifications."
Adams talks about different "systems" being in operation in any situation, and the confusion that happens when I'm talking about one system and you're talking about another. It's the stuff of classic comedy, as old as the "Grouse in the Gunroom" story, which draws its humour from a confusion of names and is possibly the great-great-grandfather of the Fawlty Towers episode about "putting Basil in the ratatouille." It works in My Cousin Vinny as Vinny, who's never actually tried a case before, has to figure out several unfamiliar systems at once:  the courtroom demeanor the judge expects, the rules about what the prosecutor can or can't reveal ahead of time, and what seems at times to be almost a foreign culture.

The educational point of this is that, first, teachers should try to be as clear as possible about what "system" they're using, if they want students to answer questions not only logically but along the expected line of thinking (without unintended humour from a clash of "systems"). But second, that education should teach you to, so to speak, start with a whole and figure out the parts, because...this is the Herbartian bit...each thing you already know or recognize is like an apperception mass, and that helps you make sense of new ideas. As someone commented about My Cousin Vinny, he shouldn't have thought grits were strange, since they're so much like polenta. I guess his food apperception masses just weren't functioning that day.

But Cousin Vinny ends up defending his cousin in court very logically and successfully, because he starts with one unquestionable fact: his cousin didn't commit the crime. Since he did not commit the crime (the fact), someone else did (the hypothesis), and the people who say they saw it happen must have been mistaken. Or maybe need new glasses.
Do you see the Charlotte Mason idea straining to come out there? Again, it doesn't sound very Herbartian, at least in the view we've generally held of Herbart, but here it is: learning happens when your own mind has to make the connections. Not when somebody else feeds you the answers. And that's how Cousin Vinny won his case.

Part Eight is here.

What's for supper when it really snows

Tonight's dinner menu:

Upside-Down Meatloaf from Saving Dinner, but with breadcrumbs made from garlic breadsticks, instead of rolled oats

Baked potatoes

Mixed green veggies and cabbage

Snowfall Cake, which is chocolate cake with some white chocolate chips leftover from Christmas added in and grated on top.

And it all goes in the oven together. Except the veggies.

What we did in school on Tuesday (Lydia's Grade Eight)

Mr. Fixit's Current Events: about snowballs, pipelines, and climate change.

Opening hymn: we are learning "O Lord, How Shall I Meet You?" by Paul Gerhardt. There are different tunes for this one, but we are singing it to a familiar tune, "All Glory Laud and Honour," the one used in the midi sample on Hymntime.org. There are also different translations, but we're using this Lutheran one; as printed in Mr. Pipes and Psalms and Hymns of the Reformation, it includes verses 1, 4, 5, and 7.

Poem for reading out loud: "Easter Wings," by George Herbert.

We finished chapter 9 of Perelandra.

Three chapters of Exploring the History of Medicine.

One page of grammar.

Hamilton's Mythology, finished a chapter.

Bible readings

Journey to the Source of the Nile, last reading for the term.

Our Roman Roots,
Lesson VIII, Day 1.

Herbartianism Made Fun and Easy, Part Seven: Education is making a life dictionary

Part Six is here.

Chapter Seven of Herbartian Psychology is one of the most original in the book, I think. I don't know how much of it is Herbart's idea and how much is John Adams', but anyway it's worth reading. You can, you know--it's right there on Archive.org.

This is how it starts: someone in the 17th century named Isaac Habrecht is quoted (by Simon Somerville Laurie in a book on Comenius) as saying that it would be handy if we could all get tickets to Noah's Ark, because then we could learn all the names of all the animals all at once, without having to go out and learn them bit by bit. (When I first read this chapter, I wondered if "Noah's Ark" might be an early English zoo or menagerie, but apparently Habrecht  did mean the original Noah's Ark.)

Adams, speaking for Herbart, says no, actually, that wouldn't work well at all. In fact, trying to learn all the animals at once, out of their normal habitats and without any other context, would be about as interesting as trying to learn all the words in the dictionary. At once. (He admits that he tried that when he was young...the dictionary, that is...but gave it up.) It's like trying to remember the names of everyone you get introduced to at a meeting or party; again, people there are away from their normal lives and contexts, "not their natural selves, yet Isaac calmly assumes that the animals in the Ark were at their ease."

Yes, the Ark idea is useful if you want to compare one animal with another. But, says Adams, "the great defect of Ark education...[is that it] tears away objects from their natural surroundings, and thus renders them meaningless; then it tries to make up for this loss of meaning by studying with great elaboration the details of the objects thus unnaturally isolated." It reminds me of Mr. Gradgrind's classroom in Dickens, where Bitzer gives the "correct" definition of a horse. Adams criticizes even "school museums," if their aim is "to save the pupil the labour of wandering about to pick up knowledge for himself." I find this fascinating in view of Adams' Herbartian leanings, with his often-repeated phrases about teachers being right on the spot to take care of the apperception masses. This sounds much closer to Charlotte Mason's insistence that the only real education is self-education--which is not a plea for unschooling, but just a different way to say that you really have to learn things for yourself. Adams talks about two dangerous fallacies in education: trying to save the pupils time, and trying to save them trouble.
"It seems eminently sensible, not to say humane, to save children as much labour as possible. But it is necessary for parents and teachers alike to remember that children are not sent to school to be saved trouble, but to be taught how to take trouble. Taking pains is one of the main things to be learnt at school."
But school museums don't bother Adams so much as teachers who are "forever preparing [a] little list of specific gravities, or genders, or constitutional changes, or words sounding the same but spelled differently. These are all little arks, each with its more or less choice selection of animals which can be thus more quickly known than they could be had the pupil to find them out for himself in their natural place." This is a wonderful image, and it can apply to so many not-so-good educational tools: reading textbooks full of facts, dates, and vocabulary lists, for example, instead of allowing that content to appear in the natural context of "many living books."
"For Isaac has not been left without successors who have marched with the times. The short cut to knowledge is not the menagerie or the museum. The Ark of Arks in education is the dictionary."
Dictionaries are bad? Doesn't every schoolroom need a dictionary? Yes, says Adams, but (pay attention!) "we must work up to the Ark, not down from it. We must go to the dictionary to find the meaning of words we have actually met; we must not go to it as to an armoury of words where we may choose what is best suited to our purpose." "The dictionary meaning may be compared to the skeleton of the full meaning; something fixed and definite, to which person who uses it adds his own special flesh and blood."

And then this is the best quote in the chapter:
"May we not, without putting an undue strain upon the words, say that education consists in the making of dictionaries?...The pupil must first learn to use his own private internal dictionary, and then learn to compare and correct it with the standard dictionary."
So a lifetime of learning, in a way, is about making our own mental dictionaries. Or encyclopedias, if you like. As adults, when we want to learn things, we wander. We poke around, we discover, we ask questions, we read, and then we add, line on line. Teachers must also allow students the privilege of wandering, of trouble, of "taking pains." When we require them to learn large amounts of freeze-dried, devitalized information, it shouldn't surprise us at all when they either resist altogether, or obediently try to learn the words without understanding the meaning. There is a right time for "arks," for charts and lists, even (I am sure of it!) for pre-printed timelines! There is definitely a time for seeing how things fit together. But we can't start there. Arks are our ending point, not our beginning.

Part Eight is here.

Monday, March 02, 2015

What's for supper? Bean chili

 Tonight's dinner menu:

Crockery Beanery, from Saving Dinner, which is a tomato saucy-bean-intensive chili. Or pasta casserole from the freezer if you preferred.
The Hillbilly Housewife's Garlic Breadsticks.

Too funny: "Olaf's song is better anyway"

Herbartianism Made Fun and Easy, Part Six: On observation and interest

Part Five is here.

Quick, what colour are the bottoms of the shoes you're wearing?

If you're not wearing shoes, what colour are your socks?

How much milk is in your refrigerator?

What, exactly, does it say on the front of your computer printer?

How did you do? Don't worry if you did not pass these typical tests of observation skills, because Sir John Adams asserts (in Herbartian Psychology, Chapter VI) that those facts are at present of no consequence. There is no shame in not knowing exactly how many buttons are on a shirt.
But what is observation for? Is the habit itself more important than actual facts? Adams beats around the bush on this one:
"The observationist educationist...wants the pupil to observe everything. He writes books like that tiresome 'Eyes and No Eyes.' He tells us of one-eyed dervishes who see more with their one eye than most of the rest of the world do with two....he points to the marvellous deeds of Sherlock Holmes."
Then he has the temerity to poke fun at nature walks.
"The pupil is supposed to go along with all his senses on the alert. He is to observe the note of the skylark, the scent of the violets, the form of the clouds, the colour of the primroses, the smoothness of the grass, the springiness of the turf. he is to amble along with all the Five Gateways of knowledge wide open, and we know that the mouth is one of them." 
So what's wrong with taking children outdoors to take it all in? The Herbartian answers:
"Interest and knowledge...mutually determine and react upon each other. In view of this, the teacher's first duty is to ascertain the contents of the mind of his pupils, and then to bring within their reach material specially prepared for those minds to react upon. Children can observe only what their apperception masses are prepared to act upon; to all else they are literally blind, deaf, callous."
What do you think Charlotte Mason would say to that? My guess is that she might partially agree, because I don't think her intent in nature walks, or anything else of that sort, was that they should be entirely random. Of course going anywhere is more interesting if you are at least somewhat prepared, if you've been given something ahead of time to look for or look at. Think about an art gallery, Westminster Abbey, a fort, a bird sanctuary. The more real interest and information you bring with you, the more likely it is that you're going to find the visit worthwhile. Think of crowds of children being dragged through museums, with nothing more on their minds than getting a day off school. Of course it's a waste of time. (I'm not so sure about the "specially prepared" material; I think that's where CM and Herbart part company.) You can stare at the night sky with nothing more than the idea that it's very big and that there are a lot of stars, but how much richer your experience would be if you knew a little astronomy. You start to form a relationship with what's out there, make "sense of those first-born affinities."
Back to Herbartian Psychology: Adams then spends several pages on the methods of Sherlock Holmes, and plays a little game with perspective (like those puzzles where the answer is "an elephant on his back in a swimming pool"). What it comes down to, he says, both in what-do-you-see puzzles and in Sherlock Holmes-type stories, is often not observation or even deduction, but specialized knowledge. There is something that the writer or the artist knows, that you don't know, and that makes the whole thing not 100% fair. It's like those maddening Encyclopedia Brown books where the solution is always something like "Encyclopedia knew that those sorts of nickels were not made until 1960, so therefore the dealer was lying."
It helps to be observant, but it also helps to have knowledge, and the Herbartian will say that you can't put knowledge in a mind unless there's already an apperception mass there to stick it to. Charlotte Mason said that it was important to begin with what you know.
Adams ends the chapter with a paragraph that sounds very CMish:
"To cultivate observation, then, is not to train the eye, the ear, the hand, to extreme sensitiveness, but rather to work up well-organized knowledge within the mind itself. If we desire minute observation in a definite direction, we must cultivate special knowledge to correspond. If we wish to encourage general observation, we can only succeed by cultivating wide interests. The reciprocal interaction of interest and knowledge in relation to external facts, is what ought truly to be called observation."
How that well-organized knowledge gets into the mind is another issue, but the point that you have to know something in order to see something or to learn something is well made.

Photos from My Cousin Vinny. 

Part Seven is here.

School plans for the first week of March and the last week of Term Two (Lydia's Grade Eight)

Do this week's Bible readings. Read part of Chapter 5 in Seeing the Mystery.

Read up to Canto 12 in Fierce Wars, Faithful Loves.

Read some of Exploring the History of Medicine, Perelandra, and The Trial of Charles I.

Whatever Happened to Justice?: "The Lessons of Simón Bolivar" and "Eating the Seed Corn."

Read the next section of Journey to the Source of the Nile: it takes in the end of one chapter and the beginning of the next.

Do some punctuation exercises in The Easy Grammar Plus, and writing exercises in The Roar on the Other Side. Work on graphing equations in Key to Algebra.

Latin: Start lesson VIII.

Finish our art study of Albrecht Dürer, and composer study of Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

What's for supper? "Hurry up, Spring" Sunday dinner

On the menu:

Chicken and gravy
Mashed potatoes
Mixed veggies
Spring rolls

Strawberries, figs, and cookies. Ice cream for those who wanted it.

Quote for Sunday: C.S. Lewis and faith

"We can understand the relation in Lewis between his literary, cultured work and his religious faith more clearly if we look at some details of his conversion to Christianity. We will ask, what was his conversion, and in particular, what was it not? First of all, it would not be appropriate to say, in a phrase one often hears, that Lewis 'accepted Christ into his life....' For him it is essential that the Christian not think of belief as a way of bringing something into his or her life, but, rather, as a way of being brought out into a larger world or sense of the world....The direction of conversion for Lewis is very much the opposite, of moving outward into something larger and more important than the self." ~~ Wesley A. Kort, C.S. Lewis Then and Now (page 22)